'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, July 8th, 2010
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Guests: Martha Coakley, Tobias Wolff, David Roberts, Barney Frank, Dave
CHRIS HAYES, GUEST HOST: Thank you, Keith.
Rachel is safe and sound, headed west to this moment.
Tonight, we have LeBron James live and in studio. And in the next 10 minutes, he will reveal to us and to you our—sorry, oh, OK, my bad. Wrong network, apparently the “S” and “N” got me confused there. LeBron James is not here, but in the event that you care, we have a especially designed cable news thingy—there you go—that appears in the corner to keep you updated on this way-too-hyped decision, which is apparently happening while we talked about a genuinely huge news story.
So, we begin tonight for real with breaking news out of Massachusetts. Big breaking news: A federal judge has ruled that the government‘s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional—a bombshell.
U.S. district court judge, Joseph L. Tauro, decided in two separate cases late today that the Defense of Marriage Act violates the fundamental principles of this nation. And with that, the judge made advocates of marriage equality very happy.
One of the rulings involved seven couples and three widowers, all of whom who had been married in the state of Massachusetts and all of whom have been ineligible for the federal benefits that come with being lawfully wed—thanks to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. That law required the federal government to ignore for federal purposes any marriage that was not between a man and women. That means same-sex wedded couples have no access to family health insurance, if one works for the government, no Social Security survivor benefits, no joint filing of federal taxes.
Now, there are two salient things about the ruling. First, Judge Tauro granted the plaintiffs what‘s known as summary judgment. Both sides filed their arguments and the judge looked at them, he decided he didn‘t need to hear another word. Judge Tauro saying the government‘s rationale for, quote, DOMA “strains credulity,” and that, quote, “irrational prejudice plainly never constitutes a legitimate government interest.”
Judge Tauro ruled that a key part of the DOMA violates the couple‘s Fifth Amendment right to equal protection. That‘s salient fact number one.
Point number two, Judge Tauro also ruled for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, saying the federal government wrongly forced it to discriminate. Tauro writing, quote, “The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state, and, in doing so, offends the Tenth Amendment.” Offends the Tenth Amendment—whoa!
Now, the Tenth Amendment is the “Don‘t Tread on Me” amendment. The Tenth Amendment is to right-wingers what the First Amendment is to the ACLU. The Tenth Amendment, that‘s the one conservatives are using to try to repeal health reform. It‘s the one that violent fringes used to declare themselves sovereign citizens, not subject to the law of the land.
It‘s Texas Governor Rick Perry‘s favorite battle cry.
And, now, today, the Tenth Amendment means gay couples are one step closer to being treated equally in this country. Don‘t tread on them, either.
Joining me now is the Massachusetts attorney general, Martha Coakley, who filed a lawsuit challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Attorney General Coakley, thank you for being here.
MARTHA COAKLEY, MASSACHUSETTS ATTORNEY GENERAL: My pleasure.
HAYES: Now, it‘s exactly one year ago today you filed the lawsuit. What does today‘s ruling mean for the plaintiffs in this case as of—as of tonight?
COAKLEY: Well, for the plaintiffs and for Massachusetts, it means that everybody in Massachusetts who‘s married will be treated the same. That was our argument, of course, on behalf of the commonwealth that we didn‘t want to have to keep two sets of books and discriminate against our citizens who, under Massachusetts law, have not that restricted definition of marriage but a marriage that says by our Supreme Court since 2004 that same-sex marriage is allowed in Massachusetts. In fact, it‘s required under our own constitution, also written by John Adams.
And so, we‘re delighted with this ruling because it means now that there are a lot of things we don‘t have to do. We don‘t have to keep a separate set of books for federal benefits to come in through the state, and that includes everything from Social Security to medical benefits, veterans can be treated the same way. And, of course, for the plaintiffs in the suit, it means that they will be treated now as opposite sex couples are in Massachusetts.
HAYES: Yes, you mentioned this. Talk a little bit more about what the sort of—the kind of entire category of those benefits are. I mean, I think that it‘s easy to lose sight of just the amount of benefits that accrue to married couples. What are we looking at in terms of what that category of things are?
COAKLEY: Well, it‘s a whole range of things. And it includes everything from Social Security to how you file your income tax, to what kind of medical benefits you may be entitled to. If your spouse is a federal employee, the retirement issues may be very different. And so, there‘s over 1,100 different benefits, ways in which federal law would treat somebody differently here in Massachusetts.
And frankly, it is difficult for Massachusetts. It‘s a burden on Massachusetts to keep those two sets of books, because for some purposes, you‘re married under our law. Other purposes, you‘re not married under the federal law.
Judge Tauro‘s decision changed that today.
HAYES: So, this is a decision in federal district court—in federal district court. What is next for the case? Is it reasonable we‘re going to see an appeal?
COAKLEY: That‘s up to the government. Obviously, it‘s not our call, but the decision has not been stayed. It does—it‘s now effective. And it means, obviously, we‘re going to work with our state agencies and with people in Massachusetts to make sure that we can implement this. But this is now the law in Massachusetts, that all married couples will be treated the same for federal and state benefits.
HAYES: Finally, I want to press you on something you said today. You said today that it‘s, quote, “unconstitutional for the federal government to decide who is married.” That seems to me to open the door to a kind of double-edged sword, right? Because, presumably, we might want some federal law passed that institutes marriage equality. And it seems like that argument could then be used by states that don‘t want to grant it to deny federal marriage equality.
COAKLEY: Well, we don‘t agree with that. Keep in mind that this has to do solely with what Massachusetts has already done, which is extend civil rights, as we believe it should be. We hope, by the way, that this leads to the extension of civil rights throughout the country. We don‘t think it will cause the shrinking of them.
But Massachusetts has decided that. And what we said is that the Congress cannot now by a statute change what Massachusetts has done. The reverse isn‘t true. It doesn‘t mean that it will affect other states right now, one way or the other.
It just says that Congress cannot pass a law that the judge found has no basis but to discriminate. And that‘s key in this. We‘re talking about civil rights here and what Massachusetts has done.
So, we don‘t think that—we think it‘s a good effect for
Massachusetts and we hope, frankly, it will continue the discussion for marriage equality and civil rights across the country.
HAYES: Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, thank you so much for being here.
COAKLEY: My pleasure. Thank you. Have a good night.
HAYES: Joining me now is Tobias Wolff, law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Wolf was also chief adviser to the Obama presidential campaign on LBGT issues.
Mr. Wolff, thanks so much for being here.
TOBIAS WOLFF, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you for having me.
HAYES: So, let‘s talk about the Obama administration. The president finds himself in an interesting sort of bind here. He has officially stated on the record he‘s against DOMA. His representatives in federal government argued for DOMA in this case.
What do you see as being the decision procedure in deciding whether or not to appeal here?
WOLFF: Well, it‘s going to be difficult for them not to appeal. This administration has been put in a rotten position with respect to this statute.
On the one hand, the president doesn‘t just oppose the Defense of Marriage Act. He has announced as a priority of his administration three times on live TV from the White House that he wants Congress to repeal this statute. It‘s a discriminatory statute, he‘s been saying that for years, and he wants to get rid of it.
That commitment runs up against another very important principle which is the obligation of the Justice Department to defend statutes that are already on the books if they think that there‘s a reasonable argument they can make. And reasonable minds can disagree about what their obligations were in this case. But I think it was not an unreasonable decision on their part to saying we‘ve got to mount an office to this statute.
So, when the question comes, are they going to appeal this case, they‘re kind of faced with the same dilemma. Now, I will say this—there was a press conference earlier today that I was able to sit in on by telephone. The lawyers for the DOMA plaintiffs actually said the same thing. They said it would be—it would be difficult for the federal government not to appeal at this point.
But the more judicial decisions we get like today‘s, which helped to establish in the courts, the principle that anti-gay discrimination and discrimination against relationships of gay couples is unconstitutional and impermissible, the more ammunition it will give the defense—excuse me—the Justice Department to perhaps take a second look at that question.
HAYES: Let‘s talk about the next steps. I mean, this will likely get appealed. It seems to me—and I‘m an amateur in this department—that it‘s going to end up in the Supreme Court. It‘s that kind of case I would imagine. Is that—would you foresee and could we be faced in a fascinating situation in which Elena Kagan is sitting on the court on exactly this case?
WOLFF: Well, certainly, the next stage is that the case goes to the first circuit court of appeals. And if the plaintiffs win before the first circuit, so the first circuit strikes down the statute, I think it‘s quite likely that the court will decide it has to take the case. But, you know, in figuring out what the implications are of this case, it‘s important to keep in mind what it does and doesn‘t decide.
And I want to clarify one thing that you said at the top of the show
WOLFF: This isn‘t a case about the constitutionality of excluding gay couples from marriage. Nothing in this case has to do with whether states have to let gay couples get married. What this is about where you‘ve got states, currently five states, plus the District of Columbia, that let gay couples married, can the federal government treat their marriages differently from everybody else‘s marriages?
And I‘ll tell you, honestly, you know, whatever the court‘s approach
to the marriage question is going to be if they ever are called upon to
decide it, this is a much more, this is a question that seems much harder
to defend, right? That you‘ve got couples that are married under state law
this goes back to part of what Attorney General Coakley was saying. And the federal government is interfering—
WOLFF: -- requiring discrimination and interfering with the state‘s own decision about the couples that they want to see getting married. So, I don‘t think that we should make any quick assumptions about how this court would decide this case. And, of course, there are federal issues in this case, too.
HAYES: Tobias Wolff, law professor at the University of Pennsylvania—thank you so much for joining me on set.
WOLFF: Thank you.
HAYES: Appreciate it.
WOLFF: You bet.
HAYES: So, Constitution-loving, deficit-loathing conservatives, which do you love more: small government with deep permanent cuts in federal spending or the security of knowing there‘s a spigot on of cash pouring unabated into our bloated military industrial gigantosaur? Uh-oh! A dilemma.
Congressman Barney Frank will be here to make his case—stick around.
HAYES: So, oil is still gushing out of BP‘s busted well on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. There won‘t be a moratorium on deepwater drilling. And the whole country is focused on the worst fossil fuel-based disaster in the history of the republic. And we‘re not getting a new climate change bill?
The great disconnect of 2010 is coming up. Stay tuned.
HAYES: File this under kind of, sort of, good news.
BP officials have raised the possibility they might be able to cap the broken well that has been spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 80 days—earlier than they thought.
BP‘s managing director, Bob Dudley, says relief wells might be finished as early as July 27th—well ahead of the mid-August timeline they‘ve been operating under so far.
But the oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico is only half the story here. And it‘s only a teeny, tiny fraction of the crisis. A few weeks ago, I was down on the Gulf Coast and I was eating a seafood restaurant in Houma, Louisiana, with a scientist who‘s been surveying the oil on the Louisiana coast.
And he told me something really striking. He said the Gulf Coast can probably survive the BP oil disaster. What it can‘t survive is a three-foot rise in the sea level. What it can‘t survive is a climate change disaster.
He said the problem is not the oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill. The problem is every other drop of oil on earth. It‘s every barrel we burn. Every molecule of carbon we put into the air.
But, at the same time as we‘re all watching this painful reminder of the cost of our dependence on oil, the cost of our energy crisis, there is one piece of legislation that could save the Gulf Coast in the long run. And it‘s on life support right now.
It‘s not quite dead yet but it‘s in the process of being killed by the same oil interests we‘ve come to be so outraged by because of what‘s happening right now in the Gulf. In other words, there is a second oil disaster here.
Just as everyone‘s watching the oil spill disaster unfold day after day on the Gulf Coast, there is an oil policy disaster unfolding in our nation‘s capital. But it‘s not too late. A real climate change bill passed the House last year and there‘s one on the Senate floor right now.
And if there‘s one single piece of legislation that we, as a country, will look back on in 100 years, that the residents of the Gulf Coast will look back on in 100 years, as having preserved this region of the country, it‘s this bill.
And in political terms, you think a bill like that would have a really, really good chance of passing right about now. You know, what with everyone in the country watching the slow-motion assault by the oil industry on 40 percent of our nation‘s wetlands and nearly $2.5 billion chunk of the country‘s seafood industry live on TV every day. It turns out, not so much—because, somehow, not everyone is on board with the fairly straightforward logic that suggests the appropriate response to a massive crisis caused by oil might be a measure designed to reduce the amount of oil we used.
Even as oil continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico from an underground gusher 50 miles off Louisiana coast, Republicans in Congress continue full speed ahead with their effort to kill the one piece of legislation that could effectively reduce our dependence on oil and stave off the much, much bigger oil crisis that comes in a package deal with global warming.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: National energy tax. They call it a climate bill. What it is, is a national energy tax. I can pretty confidently tell you, a bipartisan majority of the Senate are not going to buy that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s been dead for a year. I think it‘s still dead. And no matter which way they move, they‘re not going to have the votes to pass it.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: I will work with the president, Democrats and Republicans to come up with an energy policy. But I‘m not going to do it in the middle of an oil spill where the political environment doesn‘t favor what I want. I‘m not going to do it between now and November where an oil spill dominates the politics and the headlines.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: What‘s happening here is that the president and some liberals here in Congress want to use this disaster as an excuse for imposing their cap-and-trade national energy tax on America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While we‘re trying to clean up an oil spill and while we‘re trying to create jobs in this country is no time to put a national energy tax on the production of energy in the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama made it clear that he intends to exploit this crisis to push his liberal agenda for a cap and tax scheme.
REPORTER: I have a climate change question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HAYES: That‘s John McCain, hero and brave maverick walking away.
Joining us now is Dave Roberts, staff writer for Grist.org. It‘s a wonderful site. I get a lot of my environmental news from there.
David, thank you for being here.
DAVID ROBERTS, GRIST.ORG: Thanks for having me, Chris.
HAYES: So, let‘s just talk about where this energy bill, the John Kerry/Joe Lieberman bill stand right now. Is there a chance it could pass?
ROBERTS: There‘s very little chance at this point that the Kerry/Lieberman bill could pass. What‘s happening is there‘s a number of bills on the table right now from Kerry and Lieberman, from Lugar, from Collins and Snowe, that a number of senators put forward various bill. It‘s sort of a buffet right now.
And what‘s going to happen is Harry Reid is going to go and cobble pieces from these various bills and assemble a bill of his own and introduce that in the next week or two.
HAYES: That assembled Frankenstein bill, that is—that is built out of the different flakes in the buffet, if it‘s not Kerry/Lieberman, does that mean there‘s no carbon tax with it? Is there not going to be a price on carbon?
ROBERTS: Well, no one knows for sure. But the general conventional wisdom right now is that the full-on, economy-wide cap-and-trade system in Kerry/Lieberman, the one that passed the House as well is dead. There‘s some talk of a more limited cap-and-trade system that would only cover the electric utilities. And that still is on the knife‘s edge, even though the senator who‘s putting that bill together, Jeff Bingaman, himself is doubtful whether it can get the 60 votes.
HAYES: Well, how would that work exactly? If it was restricted utilities, I mean, do you see that as a kind of second best? I‘m looking for you to throw me a bone here. Do you see that as a second-best alternative?
ROBERTS: Well, I can think of a lot better second best alternatives.
ROBERTS: But it‘s better than nothing. But even that, I mean, I expect the strategy would be, is Reid will put together some bill out of all these pieces and then that bill will go to the floor, and the Bingaman cap—utility cap-and-trade program will be offered as an amendment so people will be able to vote on it separately. They‘ll want to have a separate vote on this.
And I am—most people, I think, are skeptical whether even that second-best option can get to 60. So, really, the likely outcome, the glide path we‘re on right now is to a so-called energy-only bill.
HAYES: This is—this is infuriating for a million reasons but let‘s just—to increase the frustration, the CBO has now released its report on the Kerry/Lieberman bill, right, which shows it reduces the deficit by $19 billion, which seems to me like the kind of thing that maybe amidst this deficit hysteria we could get some, you know, conservative Democrats and Republicans behind.
ROBERTS: You might think. This is one of the great untold stories of the whole—of the whole climate fight, is that the bill—you can think of the bill as having two parts, there‘s all the energy stuff, which is bipartisan. Everybody loves it. It gives incentives to nuclear, to wind and solar, to electric cars. All that stuff spending. That‘s the spending side, which, of course, everyone in Washington loves to do.
And then the other half is the price on carbon, which raises the revenue to pay for all that spending.
ROBERTS: And so, what you‘re seeing in D.C. is, everybody loves the spending half and everybody‘s scared to death of the other half, where you raise revenue.
So, you know, I—Chris, I don‘t want to be cynical about the sincerity of the deficit hawks in the Senate but—
HAYES: Oh, never, never.
ROBERTS: -- but it‘s peculiar that the ones that are the loudest about their deficit concern are the very ones lining up behind the most expensive, unpaid-for energy bill that you can imagine.
HAYES: What if—I mean, two things come to mind. One is, can we go after the subsidy side of it? I mean, is there a way to try to—to strip out—if we‘re not going to put a price on carbon, at least not be subsidizing carbon, you know, fossil fuel extraction to the level we are?
And two is, ultimately, if—are you thinking now a bill is better than no bill? If it‘s an energy-only bill, and you are voting in the United States Senate, you, Dave Roberts, which way do you vote?
ROBERTS: What a nightmare.
Well, two things. The subsidies that we offer oil and gas companies are substantial. I think a recent study said between 2002 and 2008, there‘s something along the lines of $70 billion in direct subsidies to oil and gas companies. So, that is another possible source of revenue.
But it was only last week that Senator Sanders offered an amendment rolling back about $35 billion of those subsidies. And that amendment was voted down by 67 votes. It wasn‘t even close. So, there‘s not much political well to take on the oil and gas companies, to take away their goodies either. I mean, basically, what you‘re seeing is a Senate that‘s allergic to raising revenue by any means.
So, as to the second question, there‘s energy-only bills and energy-only bills. There‘s a lot of different things that could go under that rubric and some of them would be great. Yes, there are lots of energy policies that I would happily vote for if I was a senator and there a lots of policies you can imagine would be status quo or worse.
So, a lot of it depends on what kind of willpower Harry Reid brings to this, and whether he can sort of say to his fellow senators, all right, I‘ll drop the price on carbon if you give me stronger energy policies. So, we‘ll have to see what he comes up with.
HAYES: All right. David Roberts, staff writer for the online environmental magazine Grist. That‘s so much for joining us.
ROBERTS: Thanks a lot, Chris.
HAYES: Rachel‘s on her way back from Afghanistan. But before she left, Richard Engel took her to a hill side in Kabul.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: There‘s a skating—skateboarding park. And boys and girls go to the skateboarding park right next to the stadium where there were Taliban-firing squads.
RACHEL MADDOW, RACHEL MADDOW SHOW HOST: Skateboarding girls next to the execution stadium?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That‘s next. Stay with us.
HAYES: I‘m Chris Hayes, sitting in for Rachel Maddow tonight while she makes her way back from Afghanistan. She‘s having stateside just as Defense Secretary Robert Gates has tapped a replacement for General David Petraeus at Central Command. The secretary announced today he‘s nominating four-star Marine Corps General James Mattis to General Petraeus‘ former post, overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He will have to be confirmed by the Senate before taking command.
In her days in the war zone, Rachel had an able tour guide to show her around Afghanistan, NBC‘s Richard Engel. To get some perspective on Afghanistan‘s history and our future there, they hiked up the hill overlooking the capital city of Kabul.
MADDOW: So, we‘ve come up to higher ground so we can sort of get more of the lay of the land here literally. Tell me where—tell me what we can see from here.
ENGEL: You can see all of Kabul stretched out below. And Kabul is pretty high. It‘s about 6,000 feet, or probably another thousand feet up above that.
Look, right over there, you can see the old—the green roof. That was the old Olympic Stadium where the Taliban used to carry out executions. Now, it is once again a sports stadium. Oddly enough, one of the most bizarre stories in Kabul, there‘s a skating—skateboarding park. And boys and girls go to this skateboarding park right next to the stadium where there were Taliban firing squads.
MADDOW: Skateboarding girls next to the execution stadium?
ENGEL: Former execution stadium. But, yes, it‘s right there. So, this is a good spot to get a sense of what happened here, how it‘s changed since the founding of the Mughal Dynasty—Mughal Empire until now.
MADDOW: Here‘s my question, though. Connecting all of that history and all of the wars, when you had the out of anarchy, you have the Taliban come to power roughly 1994, June 1989 and 1994, the people who were—who were not the Taliban, who didn‘t win that, are those the people who we‘re now negotiating with, hoping that they‘ll take over this time, post-Taliban?
MADDOW: And the Taliban themselves?
ENGEL: The people who didn‘t win, the ones who were resisting -
ENGEL: Mostly became the northern alliance.
ENGEL: And they joined with American forces to take over Kabul. And they have been the biggest victors by far. They are the ones who got all the government contracts. They have all the money. They have all the power.
And most of the ministries are people who were anti-Taliban resistance,
Tajiks, Uzbeks, who joined the Americans and came in. They have been -
MADDOW: Not Pashtuns?
ENGEL: Not Pashtuns. Karzai being the exception.
MADDOW: Exception. OK.
ENGEL: That hasn‘t been a very ha harmonious solution. Ten years almost and we‘re still fighting this war.
ENGEL: So now, the approach is, let‘s reach out. Let‘s try and make some sort of deal. So you‘re seeing the Afghan government and behind the scenes, the Americans, reaching out to people who were, for a long time, considered the enemy, people like Hekmatyar, people even like the Haqqani network which is really in close alliance with al-Qaeda.
MADDOW: It‘s incredible. And you can‘t do it - you can‘t have peace without somebody like that being included in the solution because he‘s so influential. But it‘s impossible to imagine a peaceful solution that includes him, too. It‘s amazing.
ENGEL: Well, some people who don‘t want that might keep fighting.
ENGEL: So just because you make peace with your enemy, well, then, you may create new enemies in the process.
MADDOW: I think we should go buy me a burqa.
ENGEL: Let‘s go buy you a burqa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, GUEST HOST: Rachel is heading back from Kabul right now. No word on the burqa.
Coming up, neocons versus tea partiers over military spending. Which group is more fiscally conservatier(ph) than thou. Congressman Barney Frank joins us. And LeBron - in case you didn‘t see it before, he is heading to the Miami Heat. I am really sorry, Cleveland. I really mean that from the bottom of my heart. More to come.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I‘m not going anywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
STEELE: I‘m here. I‘m here. Look, we have too much work to do. We have too much work to do to the point that you - that you just raised about, you know, stepping down. Look, every time something happens, you know, people - oh, he should step down, should step down.
Well, the reality of it is, that‘s not happening. So stop the noise
on that. Number two -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I‘m not going anywhere. That was a defiant Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee attempting to silence the critics within his own party who have been calling on him to resign after he was caught on tape expressing doubts about the war in Afghanistan, after he was caught chastising President Obama for getting involved in and then escalating a war in Afghanistan, that, to his mind, cannot be won.
Steele‘s comments on Afghanistan have sort of exposed what has really been a growing rift on the right, not just about Afghanistan policy, but of the appropriate role of American military engagement around the world.
After Steele made those comments, which appeared to advocate for American military restraint, he was almost immediately attacked by the founding father of the neoconservative moment in America, one William Kristol.
Kristol was among the first to call on Michael Steele to resign, writing, quote, “There are, of course, those who think we should pull out of Afghanistan and they‘re certainly entitled to make their case. But one of them shouldn‘t be the chairman of the Republican Party.”
After that call from Michael Steele to resign, William Kristol was called on to resign by someone who is sort of though to be his ideological soul mate, Ann Coulter.
Ms. Coulter, who I don‘t think I‘ll ever be recording again on this program, writing, quote, “I thought the irreducible requirements of Republicanism were being for life, small government and a strong national defense. But I guess permanent war is on the platter now, too. Didn‘t liberal warn us that neoconservatives want permanent war?”
This is a conflict on the right that has brewed and bubbled up in little ways for a while. But thanks to Michael Steele, it is now on full display. The unifying feature of the political right during the George W. Bush years was national security.
After 9/11, the Republican Party galvanized itself as the party of strong national defense. That began to fracture a little bit in the run-up to the Iraq war, but there was a small but vocal minority of people on the right, saying the Iraq war was a mistake.
But it was largely this national security, neoconservative vision that kept the right together. Now, in the post-Bush Obama era, there‘s a new unifying feature on the right. The thing that everyone on the right can agree on isn‘t about family values or foreign policy. It‘s about spending.
It‘s about too much government, too much government spending. Too much debt and deficit. That‘s the thing that really unifies Republicans right now. The problem for Republicans, though, is that if you are serious about wanting to government spending, you can‘t help but look first at the bloated military budget.
The Pentagon budget for the current year is $693 billion. That‘s up from $666 billion last year. And that number is expected to balloon to $708 billion next year. Defense spending has doubled over the last 10 years. As “NPR” recently pointed out, “The United States is now spending as much as defense as the rest of the world combined.”
So if you‘re a Republican, this is sort of a problem, right? How can you be the party of national security and be the anti-government spending party when national security, in its current incarnation, makes up the biggest chunk of government spending?
Enter brewing Republican civil war. If you‘re going to talk seriously about the growth of government, if you‘re going to take on government spending, you can‘t really do that without looking at the military budget.
That fact has not escaped Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. He co-wrote an op-ed this week entitled, “Why We Must Reduce Military Spending.” In it, Congressman Paul argues, “It is irrefutably clear to us that if we don not make substantial cuts in the projected levels of Pentagon spending, we will do substantial damage to our economy. Substantial reductions in military spending must be included in any future deficit reduction package.”
Challenging Congressman Paul from his own party? Well, it is none other than fellow tea partier Sarah Palin. Palin arguing via Facebook that defense spending should essentially be untouchable.
Quote, “Something has to be done urgently to stop the out of control Obama-Reid-Pelosi spending machine. And no government agency should be immune from budget scrutiny. We must make sure, however, that we do nothing to undermine the effectiveness of our military. Cut spending in other departments apart from defense. We should not be cutting corners on national security.”
If the new right is all about restraint, small government and cutting spending, shouldn‘t military spending be on the table along with everything else?
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts. He co-wrote that op-ed on the need to reduce military spending with Republican Congressman Ron Paul earlier this week. Congressman Frank, thank you so much for your time tonight. Appreciate it.
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA): Glad to. Thank you.
HAYES: First, let‘s talk about dollars and cents. I think, you know, there‘s kind of two categories to think about in terms of cutting back on American defense spending. One is what we might call wasteful spending and padded contracts, and the other is a more - a sort of more profound look at the military posture of the U.S. Government. I wonder which of those two you and Congressman Paul are sort of focused on.
FRANK: Both, but more the latter. I appreciate your making that distinction. If you concede to the geostrategic arguers that we have to have the military footprint that we have, you‘re not going to save a lot of money.
Yes, it‘s nice to be more efficient. But there are two things. First of all, any entity that thinks that there‘s an unlimited budget, it‘s going to be very hard to impose efficiency on them. And let us start capping people to get them to see the need for (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
But secondly, waste alone isn‘t the issue. NATO isn‘t wasteful. NATO was a great accomplishment of Harry Truman in 1949. But you know, Harry Truman - if you go from 1949 Harry Truman forward, if you took the same period of time backwards, you‘re talking about the administration of Grover Cleveland.
It‘s an entity that‘s outlived its usefulness to a great extent and it‘s a way in which we subsidized the militaries of Europe. So we cannot just do it with waste. You can‘t just do it with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the Iraq war that cost us $1 trillion dollars.
But we also insist there was a profoundly mistaken geostrategic view that says we‘re the world police men. We‘re going to be everywhere. We‘re going to intervene in all these disputes. By the way, we usually wind up doing more harm than good when we intervene and get people angry about us.
In Iraq, today, the most radical elements, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranian government - they‘re stronger as a result of our Iraqi intervention, not weaker. But too long an answer for a very good question. It is a lot of the strategic reach that is a bigger part of the savings.
HAYES: And that‘s - so you just raised the point of the war. Let‘s talk about that for a second. I mean, if they‘re going to start down this road, it seems like the lowest-hanging fruit, frankly, is just to vote against the supplemental for the war in Afghanistan.
I mean, if we‘re going to start paring back on the amount of money
spending on defense, why continue to fund this war, which is -
FRANK: Well, but - you think you‘d fallen into (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Let‘s not forget about Iraq.
FRANK: Iraq - you talk about low-hanging fruit. Iraq isn‘t a low-hanging fruit. It‘s lying on the ground and rotting. I was confronted yesterday by Wolf Blitzer who said, “Well, what‘s the matter with the president‘s plan in Iraq? He‘s planning to get the combat troops out this August and have only nine combat troops until the end of 2011.
And my intern said, “What are we paying these guys to do, traffic duty?” I mean, what are non-combat troops doing in Iraq? We don‘t want to be spending tens of billions of dollars to referee the Iraqi political system, so easiest thing to do is get out of Iraq.
In Afghanistan, I voted for the amendment that said by
(UNINTELLIGIBLE). We will spend only as much money as you need to withdraw in an orderly fashion. Put all those troops in there, you can‘t just walk away.
You‘ve got to be able to retreat in an orderly fashion - withdraw in an orderly fashion to protect people. I think the time has come to do that in Afghanistan. I can understand the argument there.
There is no conceivable reason for us to stay in Iraq, a place we never should have gone into in the first place, where they are not facing any external enemy at any time and where we‘re told the combat mission ends in a month. So both of those are (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But I tell you, an even easier one, it seems to me, is NATO.
FRANK: I like Germany. I like the Netherlands, Denmark. Those are very nice countries full of nice people. I don‘t understand what we‘re defending them against in the first place. I don‘t know who‘s threatening them.
And secondly, if they feel threatened, let them defend themselves. This notion that we have to subsidize the budgets our wealthy European allies is nuts. And I would throw in Japan. We have 58,000(ph) Marines in Okinawa. I think most people thought the Marines left Okinawa when John Wayne died, even though he never went there himself.
What are we doing with Marines in Okinawa? We need air power and sea power vis a vis the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We‘re not going to land Marines on the Chinese mainland. There are even easier arguments to make. There are people sitting around, carrying out somebody‘s strategic view that have no reasonable function.
HAYES: Congress Frank, I really appreciate you coming here on tonight and we will let you go. Thank you so much.
FRANK: Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith takes Glenn Beck University to school. And the verdict on a California police shooting that has the City of Oakland on edge. Stick around.
HAYES: Coming up next, a stunning decision has been reached in the case of a former transit police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man in an Oakland transit station. The officer testified he thought he was pulling out his electric Taser and not a pistol. A verdict as bewildering as the crime. I‘ll have that next.
HAYES: A tragic trial ended with a bewildering verdict in Los Angeles, California. The case began on New Year‘s Day, 2009, when Oakland police received a report there had been a fight on a Bay Area Rapid Transit Train.
When officers arrived, they detained a 22-year-old African-American man named Oscar Grant and four of his friends. Then, the transit police officer, Johannes Mehserle, arrived on the scene.
As one officer kneeled on Oscar Grant‘s neck, Officer Mehserle shot Mr. Grant in the back. He shot Oscar Grant, an unarmed man who had committed no crime, a man who witnesses say was attempting to diffuse the situation.
The trial for Officer Mehserle was moved from Oakland to Los Angeles due to extensive media coverage in the Bay Area. Los Angeles prosecutors have not won a murder conviction in a police shooting since 1983.
Officer Mehserle testified that he accidentally drew his gun, located on his right side, thinking it was his Taser, which he kept on his left. Today, the Los Angeles county jury could have found the former officer guilty of second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of 15 years to life.
But instead, after deliberating for about six hours over two days, they found Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Oscar Grant. A conviction carries a sentence of two to four years.
What happened to Oscar Grant that day on BART was as it happens caught on tape we‘ve been rolling every night. I want you to just take a look for a second. The officer stands up and fires a shot down, killing Oscar Grant.
It‘s hard to know what to say after seeing that video and seeing the verdict that resulted. You can note that there was not a single African-American juror, that it was in Los Angeles instead of Oakland, that even if Officer Mehserle was reaching Taser, it was completely and totally uncalled for.
Was he going to put a jolt in Grant as he lay prone for no reason? You can say there are a lot of people in Oakland and California and across the country tonight dealing once again with a criminal justice system that seems unremittingly punitive when people that look like they do are allegedly the ones who commit the crimes and impossibly forgiving when those same people are the victims.
Justice is rooted in fairness. This verdict specifically and the system of criminal justice and law enforcement we‘ve created in this country isn‘t fair. And it‘s not justice.
HAYES: On this night, there are two kinds of people on earth, the kind who are totally compelled by LeBron James‘ decision about where to play professional basketball for tens of millions of dollars in the near and midterm. And the kind who thought the whole thing was an overblown obsession with one of life‘s trivialities.
Whichever category you‘re in, we‘re talking to you for the next four minutes. LeBron James is a transcendent public figure, not just because he‘s a truly great athlete, because of un-godly, unprecedented, unsurpassed levels of media attention, hype and expectation that have surrounded him since he was in middle school in Akron, Ohio.
He was on the cover of “Sports Illustrated” magazine as a high school junior. He was drafted at 17 by the team up the road, the previously lowly Cleveland Cavaliers. And incredibly, impossibly given expectations, LeBron James did not disappoint. He played brilliantly.
He showed love for his hometown. He was a gentleman in the press. He handled his business and private life like a mensch, a like a grown-up. And he was a teenager who had been paid more attention for longer than all of the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan multiplied by each other.
And then, his contract with Cleveland expired and so began the courtship of LeBron James by NBA teams and their cities. In the case of New York City, the campaign to lure LeBron started two or three years ago, and included the very public pitch of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It was, frankly, gross.
It concluded with tonight‘s vainglorious hour-long special on ESPN arranged by camp LeBron agreed to by the network. And because you have been watching us since the top of the hour, we can now report that NBC News has confirmed that LeBron picked Miami.
On the one hand, LeBron James did exactly what everyone who ever worked for someone else dreams of doing. He put all his potential bosses in the palm of his hand and made them beg.
Viewed through a certain lens, and maybe a stretch, you could see this as the ultimate triumph of labor over capital. On the other hand, he held his hometown hostage for a month and commandeered a TV network and in the most public possible way, picked Miami and dumped New York, New Jersey, Chicago and his childhood sweetheart, Cleveland.
Nice. All right. So let‘s talk it out. LeBron James, awesome stud, self-involved, albeit intimidatingly impressive heel.
Joining us is Dave Zirin, sportswriter for “The Nation,” the host of Sirius XM “Edge of Sports” radio. He‘s also author of the new book, “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games We Love” which will be available on July 20th. Great to see you, Dave. Thanks for being here.
DAVE ZIRIN, HOST, “EDGE OF SPORTS”: Happy LeBronica, Chris.
HAYES: Happy LeBronica. So you wrote that LeBron is acting, quote, “less
cool than Al Gore on ‘Soul Train.‘”
HAYES: What do you mean by that?
ZIRIN: First, I just have to say, Chris, I‘m sorry. I just got back from Oakland. I‘m sickened by the Oscar Grant verdict.
ZIRIN: I just have to say that publicly or I can‘t talk about anything else. We need justice for Oscar Grant. Now, back to LeBron James. This is such - yes. That gives you a sense of some of the perspective here.
HAYES: Yes. Segue.
ZIRIN: Back to LeBron James. Lovely segue. Look, it‘s the worst decision made in Florida since the butterfly ballot. It‘s terrible. I hate this decision. He is going to Dwyane Wade‘s team.
So right away, not only is he spelling doom for the economy of
Cleveland - I mean, people joke that Cleveland has a LeBron-based economy, but there‘s actually some truth to that.
It‘s also true he‘s now going to Dwyane Wade‘s team so he is picking up the mantle of being Robin to Dwyane Wade‘s Batman. He is putting a ceiling on his own potential so every NBA fan should be weeping tonight because LeBron James has sacrificed his potential at the altar of South Beach.
HAYES: Yes. You know, I want to talk about sort of the business aspect of this for a second because the title of your book is “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games We Love.” And at a certain level, it did seem like LeBron was sort of seizing control of the owners.
At the same time, the spending spree we have seen in the run-up to this is all in the context what have is going to be impending labor trouble down the road.
HAYES: And so I wonder what you make of this in terms of the relationships between owners and the players, you know, as we roll towards that deadline.
ZIRIN: I would argue it‘s really bad for the union, because what this represents in terms of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and all these mega-free agents is stratification inside the union where you‘re going to have a small group of superstars who are going to be protected by the owners in the next collective bargaining agreement and then a whole ream of minimum salary players.
You‘re going to look at the Miami Heat this fall and you‘re going to see the future of the NBA - three superstars who are lorded over and then a bunch of players who are extras, who make the league minimum.
And you know what? Basketball is the ultimate team game. This is not how you win championships. And I think this is going to end in a horrible disappointment for LeBron James. It‘s bad for the NBA. It‘s bad for the union.
You know what? It‘s bad for everybody except ESPN, that is unless you‘re a journalist for ESPN and you just saw your network sacrifice its integrity for the LeBron-a-thon.
HAYES: Well, it‘s interesting, right? So you have this situation in which the Miami Heat and NBA basketball will be re-inscribing the political economy of the U.S., the vanishing basketball middle class, and you have this sort of superstar economy with a few very, very well compensated players and then the rest. And this is the stake through solidarity of LeBron (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
ZIRIN: Exactly. And you see it in Cleveland, too, because on the one hand, we can say Cleveland‘s leaving - LeBron leaving Cleveland is going to devastate that city. $20 million in business in the service industry alone is expected to be lost this year in the immediate periphery around the stadium.
I‘ve seen interviews with day laborers who are like, “I‘m not going to
be able to work this year because LeBron James won‘t be there.” But on the
other hand, what does it say about our urban planning in this country -
ZIRIN: That our cities are dependent on sports teams and on individual superstars? It isn‘t good.
HAYES: Yes. Dave Zirin, that‘s a really good point. He‘s a writer for a great magazine, which is called “The Nation.”
ZIRIN: I‘ve heard of it, yes.
HAYES: And host of Sirius XM “Edge of Sports” radio. Thanks so much for coming on.
ZIRIN: Happy LeBronica.
HAYES: That does it for us. I‘m Chris Hayes, in while Rachel travels back from Kabul, Afghanistan. We‘ll see you again tomorrow night. “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts now. Good night.
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